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Wait times for access to pain treatment in canada: a "sore point" for sufferers

le 6 novembre 2006 » Toronto

CPS Task Force study recommends 6 month wait time as maximum for protection of health-related quality of life (HRQL) and psychological well being

Toronto, November 6, 2006 – Canadians that wait more than six months for access to appropriate chronic pain treatment are more likely to see deterioration of their quality of life and psychological well-being, including higher depression scores, according to a Task Force report issued today by the Canadian Pain Society (CPS). Studies also show that chronic pain doubles the risk of death by suicide[1] and that uncontrolled pain compromises immune function, promotes tumour growth, and can slow healing with an associated increase in morbidity and mortality following surgery.[2]

“Waiting for treatment to reduce or resolve pain can have a devastating effect on a patient’s state-of-mind, with impacts that extend into work life, relationships, and mental health,” said Dr. Roman Jovey, President of the Canadian Pain Society. “As healthcare professionals that struggle every day to help patients desperate for relief, we often see these tragic impacts in very real terms. Consequently the CPS commissioned this report to give Canadian healthcare policymakers a useful scientific benchmark, as a basis to better address the problem of access to treatment.”

No data currently exists that indicates at what point deterioration begins, which means that no ‘safe’ waiting period can be established. Furthermore, no research exists to study the effect of wait times on outcomes in the treatment of chronic pain patients.

“A key recommendation stemming from this report is the urgent need for more study to better understand when waiting for care begins to affect quality of life,” said Dr. Mary Lynch, Chair of the Task Force. “And clearly we also need to quantify how these waits affect patient outcomes. If we learn that getting earlier treatment sees significantly higher percentages of chronic pain patients staying at or returning to work, we’ll be able to give healthcare policymakers a strong economic argument for action. It’s clear that much more research is needed.”

The Task Force’s report was based on a detailed review of 24 published studies that examined issues of wait times, health status and health outcomes for patients awaiting treatment for chronic pain. The studies were screened using the same process established by the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) funded group reporting on wait times for joint replacement surgery.

An executive summary and copy of the full report can be accessed on the CPS website at http://www.canadianpainsociety.ca.

The Canadian Pain Society represents Canadian doctors, scientists and other healthcare professionals dedicated to improving understanding, treatment and education about pain issues and management practices in Canada.

For more information

Dr. Roman Jovey, President, Canadian Pain Society
(905) 668-9545

Dr. Mary Lynch, Chair, CPS Wait Times Task Force
(902) 473-6428

[1] Tang N, Crane C: Suicidality in chronic pain: review of the prevalence, risk factors and psychological links. Psychol Med 2006, 36: 575-586

[2] Liebeskind JC: Pain can kill. Pain 1991, 44: 3-4 and Page GG: Acute Pain and immune impairment. Pain Clinical Updates 2005, XIII: 1-4